By Tariq Weaver
It has been said of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that he was the most generous of men and that his generosity would increase during the month of Ramadan (Sahih Bukhari). I reflected on this as I read the third juz’ of the Qur’an (2:253–3:92), contrasting the archetype of the one who gives in God’s name to the one who gives for the sake of his ego. This contrast and its relevance to the Black Muslim community can be seen in Kanye West, a man who proclaims his love for and belief in God and has been given tremendous resources and opportunities to facilitate the growth and empowerment of his community yet has chosen to make a mockery of all the blessings given to him. Allah mentions repeatedly throughout the third juz’ how auspicious charity is for the believers. The ayat from Surah al-Baqarah take into account all of humanity, and I am using Kanye as one example.
The parable of those who spend their wealth in God’s cause are like grains of corn that produce seven ears, each bearing a hundred grains. God gives multiple increase to whoever he wishes: he is limitless and all knowing. — 2:261
…as I read the third juz’ of the Qur’an, contrasting the archetype of the one who gives in God’s name to the one who gives for the sake of his ego. This contrast and its relevance to the Black Muslim community can be seen in Kanye West…
I do have a disclaimer. I grew up on Kanye West. I rocked with Kanye since I was 13 years old. I’m not one to bifurcate his sounds into “old” or “new.” I enjoy “Yeezus” now as much as I revered “Late Registration” then. In his infamous “Sway” moment in 2013, Ye gave a diatribe on how we are all “slaves” to corporations and brands and how billionaires control the factories, retail and tertiary supplemental businesses that finance their stake within the industry. The 23-year-old me at the time found that inspiring and believed that Ye, in a position of authority within the high fashion world, would bring benefit to our people.
Little did the world know that within the next five years Kanye would secure a $10 million deal with Adidas. However, of his many questionable life choices, what rattled me the most was his most recent appearance at Coachella where he reinterpreted his catalogue as Christian praise refrains. Ye assembled a full outfit of percussionists and singers to re-purpose his catalogue, but truth and faith should be experienced authentically and not as a gimmick. They don’t need to be commodified. As God says,
You who believe, do not cancel out your charitable deeds with reminders and hurtful words, like someone who spends his wealth only to be seen by people, not believing in God and the Last Day. Such a person is like a rock with earth on it: heavy rain falls and leaves it completely bare. Such people get no rewards for their works: God does not guide the disbelievers. — 2:264
Case in point, he sold apparel ranging from $70 t-shirts to $250 sweatshirts that read “trust God” and “holy spirit.”
I believe the reason for Ye’s obsessive grappling with freedom and slavery is a deeply spiritual contention for him. God reminds us that “Satan threatens you with the prospect of poverty and commands you to do foul deeds” (2:268). Ye’s affinity for Donald Trump seems to be a longing for an unquestioned and unchallenged legacy of influence and power. Being a Black man in America, to live with such autonomy is unprecedented and therefore understandably coveted but Satan’s promise is false. It is God who “promises you His forgiveness and His abundance: God is limitless and all knowing” (2:268).
Being a Black man in America, to live with such autonomy is unprecedented and therefore understandably coveted but Satan’s promise is false. It is God who “promises you His forgiveness and His abundance: God is limitless and all knowing” (2:268).
Still, Ye continues to push the boundary. His quest for power is similar to the story of Qarun that is detailed in another part of the in Qur’an, in Surah Qasas (28). Qarun was a wealthy man from the Children of Israel who attributed all of his success to his knowledge and not Allah’s favor. Moreover, he amassed his fortune while his people were in bondage. Ye can’t ignore that our people are hurting and marginalized, yet he does. God asks the people of the book, “Why do you mix truth with falsehood? Why do you hide the truth when you recognize it?” (3:71) Power has the ability to re-prioritize morals and ethics.
Ye’s shortcomings have had a great impact and offended many people. But I believe in the redemptive power of God’s words:
Those who give, out of their own possessions, by night and by day, in private and in public, will have their reward with their Lord: no fear for them, nor will they grieve. — 2:274
Perhaps he and many of us need to reassess the ways in which we give to our communities. Earlier this year, Ye returned to the Chi and flirted with economic investment initiatives on the Southside, notably rehabbing the famed Regal Theatre on 79th Street and even stated that he planned on relocating back to Chicago and never leaving. Hopefully, this is true because unfulfilled promises aren’t simply kind words but, in the case of Black America, injurious platitudes.
Allah knows best as He is the Knower of what all hearts conceal.
Tariq Weaver (@sufijohnstevens) is a Chicago native. As an aficionado of hip hop and history, he is greatly concerned with the well-being of his community. When he is not otherwise occupied with his 9-5, he spends his time weaving his thoughts on these matters into rhymes.